THE UK'S harvesting companies will be asked to share timber data as part of a project to improve understanding of the nation's woodlands. 

Forestry bosses are hoping to collate information from multiple sources to better inform sawmills of real time wood availability and the wider species supply. 

Initially set to be launched as a pilot project between "key industry partners" and Confor, officials say they will make the data available for wholescale analysis. 

A statement from industry body read: "Each day timber harvesters collect very useful data on every tree they process. Currently, that data is either not used or only used by the harvesting company – this project aims to collate data from multiple sources across the UK and then make it available for wholescale analysis.

"This data can be used in several ways, such as at forest level to better understand the log percentage breakout and to inform the sawmill of material available in real time. 

"There are also science applications such as informing and improving GB production forecasts, informing official statistics and creating the opportunity for greater analysis into timber properties.

"The latter is of upmost importance as the industry explores alternative species, we need to understand the timber better. This type of data will be very useful to timber buyers as well. 

"Similar projects have been running for many years in Sweden and Finland. The team has already met with representatives from Sweden to learn and advance our project. The UK project will begin with a pilot with key industry partners, the aim being to roll out more widely in due course."

While the project has so far received funding from Forest Research, Confor officials say it will now require cash from the broader forestry sector for it to work. 

The statement added: "While there will be opportunities to apply for other sources of Government funding, this will require match funding from the industry as the collection of the data and its analysis will benefit the whole industry.

"Therefore in time the project team will be seeking funding from stakeholders. This funding will support the collection/inputting of raw data, physical data housing and initial analysis." 

More information on the pilot project will be released in due course. If you wish to be involved with the project, contact Confor's Richard Hunter.